Monday, April 4, 2016

FEEL and FAIL are four letter words to a brass player.


ROGER ROCCO

THE OBJECT IN YOUR HANDS IS NOT THE REAL INSTRUMENT. YOU ARE THE REAL INSTRUMENT. THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW. WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO RECEIVE IT'S POWERFUL MESSAGE.

There are two methods to motivate the complex mechanics required to create musical sounds with an instrument. However, only one method is effective while the other is very dysfunctional.

If we don't motivate the subconscious mind to create mechanical function based on a powerful conscious awareness of sound, the subconscious will attempt to create sound awareness by feel. Essentially making the embouchure function like ears.

That's like trying to drain an ocean with a straw or heading the wrong way down a one way street. 

THE MUSICAL MIND IS MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF CREATING MUSIC. NEITHER LIPS, TONGUE, LUNGS, FINGERS, OR THE MINDLESS BRASS TUBE IN THE HANDS ARE CAPABLE OF CREATING A SINGLE NOTE WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF AN IMAGINATIVE MIND COMMITTED TO ONLY THE MUSIC.

THE SUBCONSCIOUS (REACTIVE MIND) WILL RESPOND FAITHFULLY AND POWERFULLY TO THE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF SOUND IF THE AWARENESS IS VIVID AND POWERFUL. RESPONSE WILL ALWAYS EQUAL AWARENESS IF THERE IS NO INTELLECTUAL INTERFERENCE.

ARNOLD JACOBS

There are two instruments. One in the hands and one in the head. The instrument in the hands is a mirror reflecting the one in the head.

I always believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.

I sing (think) the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lips feels or how I feel. 

MEREDITH WILLSON

THE THINK SYSTEM from THE MUSIC MAN

You only have to think the tune to have it come out perfectly clear.

ADOLPH HERSETH

There is nothing wrong with your chops (tongue, lungs, hands). Your mind is messing them up.

Paralysis by Analysis.

SERGIO CAROLINO

Mind vs. Metal
I don't care much about TUBAS because they don't have a brain.
STEPHEN WILLIAMSON

I try to play it (Mozart Clarinet Concerto) from a vocal perspective, like an opera singer. The piece has little to do with the clarinet at all!

ROGER ROCCO

THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.

AWARENESS OF MUSIC
MENTAL COMMITMENT TO AWARENESS OF MUSIC
EXECUTION OF MENTAL COMMITMENT TO MUSIC

You cannot have a powerful musical commitment to a low level of musical awareness.

You cannot learn to speak language without first hearing the sound of words. And you cannot create musical sounds with an instrument or vocally without first having a vivid awareness of the sound in the imaginative mind. Creating musical sound is not a mindless process.

Most people struggle to develop their mastery of the instrument in their hands. The key to developing instrumental skills is to develop musical skills first. 

H. A. Vandercook

Keep it simple.

If you can sing it, you can play it.

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN SOUND AWARENESS AND FEEL AWARENESS.

Our ability to detect sound externally with ears and internally in the mind is very powerful. But the ability to detect specific sounds using the sense of feel is very weak. Yes, we can feel sound vibrations but it is not possible to detect frequency by touch. People without the ability to hear cannot substitute their hands for their deaf ears.

THE MYTH OF BEETHOVEN'S EARS

For many years, children were taught that Beethoven was able to hear the sound of his piano by placing his head on the sound board to feel the vibrations. How did Beethoven retain a powerful awareness of sound though his ears failed to function? Although his sound awareness was no longer available externally, it was still powerful internally in his mind and it became even more so in time. It is said that the 9th Symphony is the greatest music he ever composed but Beethoven never heard a single note with his ears. It obviously didn't matter.

LIPS INTO EARS

When the brass player's conscious auditory awareness of frequency is vague or absent, the subconscious mind reacts by trying to create pitch awareness by detecting the notes by feel in the lips. Woodwind players frequently attempt to detect the notes by feel in their hands. Since the lips and fingers are unable to detect frequency by touch, no information such is communicated to the brain. Without conscious auditory awareness or feel awareness the subconscious mind has no information with witch to respond so there is no response. PARALYSIS!!!

SYMPTOMS vs. CAUSE

There are two questions I always ask of those attending my clinics or masterclasses. I have asked these questions hundreds of times of all age groups and performance levels worldwide.

1.  Have any of you ever been told you have air or embouchure problems?
2.  Has anyone ever wanted to throw their instrument through a brick wall?

The response is always 100% affirmative.

Most people consciously to correct their physical symptoms of malfunction. But they don't understand what is motivating the symptoms which are directed by the subconscious.

WE CANNOT SPEND OUR MUSICAL LIVES REACTING TO PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE.

WE MUST REACT TO WHAT IS CAUSING THEM. THE LACK OF MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC.

ADOLPH HERSETH

Think sound not mechanics.

ROGER ROCCO

Sound motivates function.

The music tells us everything we need to know.

ARNOLD JACOBS

The key to playing an instrument can be found in speech.

We cannot motivate motor function (output) through sensory awareness (input).

SHINICHI SUZUKI

We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned to speak.

The worldwide epidemic of FOCAL DYSTONIA is not some perilous virus or bacteria. The paralysis is the result of misdirection (feel vs. sound) of the conscious mind which is powerfully influenced and reinforced by the mindless instrument.  

ERIC HYLAND

You cannot sit on the stage and in the audience at the same time.

My job is strikingly simple. Those who come to me for help have drifted away from a vivid conscious awareness of the music to a vague conscious awareness of how their playing feels, mechanics, or the instrument. Usually it's all three. Where's the music? NOWHERE!!!
I HELP THEM COME BACK TO THE MUSIC. IT'S THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.

ADOLPH HERSETH

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece), Transfer the singing and buzzing to the trumpet (instrument).

ROGER ROCCO

THE POWER OF SINGING

Arnold Jacobs was a master solfege artist. The result of his high conscious level of musical awareness was a powerful subconscious commitment to the execution of sound. It didn't matter what instrument was in his hands. In addition to the tuba, he played trumpet, trombone, and string bass very well.

SING (3x), BUZZ (3x), PLAY (3x) until the conscious commitment to the music is powerful enough to dominate the paralyzing influence of the instrument.

NOTHING MATTERS BUT THE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF AND MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC. EVERYTHING ELSE IS A DISTRACTION FROM THE MUSIC THAT INEVITABLY LEADS TO PARALYSIS.

WE MUSIC HAVE A SIMPLISTIC INTELLECTUAL APPROACH TO MOTIVATING THE COMPLEX SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL SKILLS REQUIRED TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.

WHEN WE ATTEMPT TO SUBSTITUE THE CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL MIND FOR THE SUBCONSCIOUS REACTIVE MIND, WE ARE CHOOSING WEAKNESS OVER STRENGTH.

SELF CONFIDENCE IS THE RESULT OF AN EXPECTATION OF SUCCESS, WHICH CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY ESTABLISHING A HISTORY OF SUCCESS. SELF DOUBT IS A SELF INFLICTED WOUND.

THE GOAL OF PERFECT MASTERY OF AN INSTRUMENT NEVER LEADS TO PERFECTION. THE GOAL OF PERFECT MASTERY OF MUSICAL AWARENESS WILL ALLOW US TO COME CLOSE TO MASTERING THE INSTRUMENT.

MIDORI

PURE (TECHNICAL) PERFECTION IS UNOBTAINABLE.

ARNOLD JACOBS

I WANT YOU TO HAVE THE MIND OF A CHILD.

GO FOR THE PRODUCT (SOUND).

EPILOGUE

Much to my dismay, paralyzing air and embouchure analysis persists in the educational system worldwide. It dominates all levels of wind instrument pedagogy from the fourth grade beginner to the seasoned professionals.

Musical awareness (sound) should be dominant but it is overwhelmed
by self analysis and self awareness. The educators argue that musical awareness cannot be communicated to a fourth grader and that complex mechanical awareness is an appropriate substitute. The opposite is true. We must communicate musical awareness without the paralyzing mechanical distraction. We don't need breathing bags or tubes, embouchure magnifying mirrors, cameras, or visualizers.

THE STUDENTS MUST HAVE A POWERFUL AWARENESS OF THE SOUND THEY WANT TO PRODUCE. IT IS THE JOB OF THE MUSIC TEACHER TO COMMUNICATE THAT AWARENESS. THE SUBCONSCIOUS WILL RESPOND POWERFULLY JUST AS IT DOES FOR ALL AWARENESSES WE EXPERIENCE EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES.  A CHILD IS TAUGHT TO SPEAK BY COMMUNICATING THE SOUND OF LANGUAGE AND THEY LEARN TO WALK BY OBSERVING OTHER WALK.

MUSICAL AWARENESS IS A POWERFUL SUBCONSCIOUS MOTIVATOR OF PHYSICAL MECHANICS BUT CONSCIOUS MECHANICAL ANALYSIS IS A VERY WEAK MOTIVATOR OF MUSIC.

THERE CAN BE NO FUNCTION WHEN WE SUBSTITUTE WEAKNESS FOR STRENGTH.

P. S. September 20, 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the first time, as a 17 years old high school senior, I played for Mr. Jacobs. That day not only changed my life but it has also impacted the lives of countless others who I have worked with since. We are eternally grateful for what you have given us with your generosity and wisdom as a teacher and your role model as a great musician.
Thanks Jake! You were a unique gift to us all!








Sunday, February 22, 2015

THE EPIDEMIC OF FOCAL DYSTONIA

Adolph Herseth

No greatness can be achieved if the trumpeter is paralyzed by fear.

If a trumpeter is fearful when they play, they should consider another line of work.


Roger Rocco

MENTAL COMMITMENT TO MUSIC = PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT.

WHEN A MUSICIAN BECOMES PARALYZED (FD), IT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOST THEIR MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC. WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE LOSS OF THEIR PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT. WHEN THEY TRY TO CREATE A PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT BY CONSCIOUSLY ANALYZING THEIR PLAYING MECHANICS, FAILURE IS THE ONLY OUTCOME. THE PHYSICAL MECHANICS ARE MUCH TOO COMPLEX FOR THE INTELLECTUAL MIND TO COMPREHEND. WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO CONSCIOUSLY COMMIT TO THE MUSIC RATHER THAN HOW TO PRODUCE IT. WHEN WE DO, WE ACCESS THE POWER OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND RATHER THAN BYPASS IT. AS ARNOLD JACOBS TELLS US,

                                     PLAYING WILL BE A JOY

FEAR is a subconscious state of mind that seemingly protects us from an expectation of physical or emotional harm by motivating paralysis or action. We cannot consciously control fear but we can control how we respond to it. If we respond by removing the conditions that are motivating it, the influence of fear will subside. ATTEMPTING TO ELIMINATE FEAR WITHOUT FIRST REMOVING THE MOTIVATION WILL ONLY INCREASE ITS PARALYZING INFLUENCE.     

COURAGE is not the absence of fear. It is the will to function in spite of it.

DISCIPLINE is the will to do whatever is necessary to accomplish a goal.
Most people never realize their goals because they are paralyzed by their fear of failure.

RECOVERY from Focal Dystonia is a lifelong process that requires courage, discipline, and the great power of persistence.

We cannot consciously control our fear because it motivated by the subconscious in anticipation of failure or danger. However, we can control what is motivating our fear by consciously removing what is causing it. 

Fear of failure is the result of an expectation of failure which results from a history of failure. An expectation of success can only result from creating a history of success. In time, all expectations, positive or negative, become powerfully associated with and reinforced by the instrument we are holding.     

When a history of failure has developed over an extended period of time, the subconscious mind begins to interpret the instrument as the source of emotional pain and physical discomfort. However, the protective response of the subconscious is not protective. It sabotages us by motivating paralysis, greater pain and emotional suffering.             

THE MUSIC MAN, MEREDITH WILLSON

WE USE THE THINK SYSTEM HERE! YOU ONLY NEED TO THINK THE TUNE TO HAVE IT COME OUT PERFECTLY CLEAR.

THERE IS NO REASON FOR YOUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE OTHER THAN YOUR STATE OF MIND!

The symptoms of failure are physical but they are the result of failure in the mind. We cannot correct failure in the mind by first trying to correct physical failure. We must have the courage to first commit mentally to the music we want to produce. 0nly then can we be free of the paralyzing influence of the mindless instrument in our hands instrument.

The precise subconscious physical motor skills necessary to create the music with an instrument will powerfully follow the direction of the powerful conscious musical awareness. This beautiful symbiotic relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind is nothing new in our lives. It allows us to function with ease in the external environment every moment we are awake.

If you want to make a more powerful physical commitment to playing mechanics, you must first make a more powerful mental commitment to the sound you want to produce. If you try to create physical function without musical awareness, dysfunction is the only possible result.

SERGIO CAROLINO

Mind vs. Metal (or tissue)

SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION!!

IT'S JUST THE SINGING!!!

THE STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN IN THE HANDS OF ITZHAK PERMAN, THE AMATI CELLO IN THE HANDS OF YO YO MA, THE YAMAHA TUBA IN THE HANDS OF SERGIO CAROLINO, AND THE STEINWAY PIANO AT THE HANDS OF LANG LANG ARE LIFELESS, MINDLESS OBJECTS UNTIL THEY REFLECT THE GREAT MUSICAL MINDS OF THE MUSICIANS PLAYING THEM. THE MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT IS NOT THE ONE IN THE HANDS. IT IS THE ONE BETWEEN THE EARS!    

THE AWARENESS ON AN INSTRUMENT IS THE HANDS IS OF LITTLE IMPORTANCE COMPARED TO THE AWARENESS OF THE MUSIC IN THE MIND.

WE SHOULD NOT SEARCH FOR SOUND INSIDE THE INSTRUMENT BECAUSE NO SOUND EXISTS UNTIL IT IS CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE AND SENT INTO THE LEADPIPE. 

MEANINGLESS TERMS LIKE FAT AIR, FAST AIR, WARM AIR, OR AIR FLOW ARE DISFUNCTIONAL BECAUSE THE WIND PLAYER HAS VERY LITTLE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF AIR WHILE PLAYING. HOWEVER, THE WIND PLAYER CAN HAVE GREAT AWARENESS OF SOUND WHILE PLAYING. FUNCTIONAL TERMS ARE RESONANT SOUND, HEAVY SOUND, LIGHT SOUND,  AND SOFT OR LOUD SOUND,  I HAVE FOUND THAT TERMS LIKE DARK AND BRIGHT SOUND ARE MUCH TOO VAGUE TO REALIZE UNLESS THEY ARE A DIRECT IMMITATION OF SOME OTHER SOURCE.

A BRASS INSTRUMENT IS JUST A MINDLESS LENGTH OF TUBING AND A CONE AT THE END OF A CUP MOUTHPIECE. NEITHER THE MOUTHPIECE OR TUBE HAS  MUSICAL SOUND OR INTELLIGENCE OF ITS OWN. THE TUBE ALREADY HAS A STATIONARY COLUMN OF AIR THAT MUST BE SET INTO VIBRATION WITH SPECIFIC FREQUENCIES OF SOUND THAT ARE CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THERE IS VERY LITTLE AIR FLOW SO IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO DISTRACT OURSELVES BY TRYING TO CREATE MOTION OF AIR. TERMS SUCH AS FAST AIR, WARM AIR, FAT AIR, AND FLOWING AIR ARE PARALYZING DISTRACTIONS FROM THE AWARENESS OF SOUND.  

IMAGINATIVE MUSICAL SOUND ORIGINATES AS CONSCIOUS AWARENESS IN THE MIND. IF WE DO NOT INTERFERE WITH PARALYZING INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS, THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND WILL MOTIVATE THE COMPLEX PHYSICAL MECHANICS NECESSARY TO PRODUCE THE SOUND IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THE TUBE AND CONE AT THE END OF THE MOUTHPIECE CAN AMPLIFY AND COLOR THE SOUND BUT IT CANNOT CREATE IT! 

EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS IS ALSO AN UNNECESSARY PARALYZING DISTRACTION FROM THE SOUND. IT IS THE AWARENESS OF SOUND THAT MOTIVATES THE EMBOUCHURE, AIR, TONGUE, AND FINGERS, NOT VISA VERSA.

SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION.

THE OBJECT IN THE MUSICIAN'S HANDS IS NOT THE REAL INSTRUMENT. THE MUSICIAN HOLDING THE OBJECT IS THE REAL INSTRUMENT. 

IT'S NOT ABOUT SELF AWARENESS. IT'S ONLY ABOUT MUSICAL AWARENESS.

LISTENING TO THE INNER EAR OF YOUR MIND WILL DO ALL THE WORK IF YOU ALLOW IT. IF YOU CONCENTRATE ON LISTENING TO YOUR EXTERNAL EARS, YOUR PLAYING WILL FEEL LIKE YOU ARE, "TRYING TO PUSH A PIANO UP A FLIGHT OF STAIRS".

WE MUST FIRST ESTABISH A POWERFUL MENTAL  AWARENESS OF SOUND BEFORE THERE CAN BE A POWERFUL PHYSICAL COMMITMENT TO CREATE IT. 

WE MUST BE PROACTIVE ABOUT ACHIEVING SUCCESS RATHER THAN REACTIVE WITH OUR RESPONSE TO FAILURE.

Arnold (Jake) Jacobs

I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel.

Adolph (Bud) Herseth

Transfer the singing (mental) and buzzing (mouthpiece) to the trumpet (instrument).

Think sound not mechanics. 

Will Scarlett

Even the most posiive technical thought is still negative.

THE ANALOGY OF THE GENERATOR, LIGHT BULB, AND MIRROR

We are generators of sound that originates in the conscious imagination and is created in the brass mouthpiece like light in a bulb. The mindless tubing with valves or a slide is only a mirror that receives and reflects sound but it cannot produce it. The real instrument is not the one you are holding. It's the cup on your chops where sound is created. I no longer play a tuba. I play a mouthpiece with a tuba or sometimes a length of tubing with a funnel on the end. It doesn't matter where the mouthpiece is located as long as I'm committed to producing the sound I want. My subconscious mind will faithfully and powerfully respond to my conscious awareness of the sound as long as I don't interfere with paralyzing self analysis and self awareness.

Most of my current teaching involves working with professional and advanced non-professional musicians who have lost their ability to function mechanically to produce musical sounds with an instrument in their hands. All were once successful performers but are now perplexed by the symptoms of paralysis and discomfort that have crept into their playing. I’m always the last person on the list of people they first consult for help.

Before contacting me, they usually have been deteriorating for several years and have suffered physical discomfort and great emotional pain. Many are on the verge of losing their playing or teaching jobs and are facing the end of their career.  

Tragically, many very successful careers are lost because the lack of understanding of what is going on, why it is happening, and not knowing to do about it. Medically prescribed injections are not the answer because there is nothing physically wrong with the body parts involved in playing an instrument. They most often complain about having problems with malfunction of air, embouchure, or tongue. Sometimes, they are experiencing uncontrolled trembling, pain in their throat, jaw, hands or fingers.

I recall the first lesson of an excellent principal trumpeter who experiencing paralysis. When I open the door to my home, his first words were, “Roger, I have bad news. The doctor just told me there is nothing wrong with my chops.” I replied, “That’s the good news” Virtually everyone who comes for help has applied every pedagogical methodology they know without success. Most often it involves air/embouchure or tonguing analysis. With woodwind players, it frequently involves awareness and analysis hands and fingers. Frequently, the medical community is consulted but since the paralysis and pain is not the result of a medical condition, there never is a positive outcome. The doctors usually are stumped and inform them that their careers are over and they should find something else to do.

Unfortunately, many doctors think that Focal Dystonia is the result of too much muscular repetition over too much time. If that were true, our hearts would develop the same symptoms.
Although some people do develop an arrhythmia of their heart as they age, it’s usually the result of inadequate use rather than overuse.

My personal process of recovery has been ongoing for over forty years. That journey has given me a great opportunity to understand the condition, and to help myself and many others.

Contrary to the misinformed advice that is being offered by the medical and educational communities, there is a solution for recovery. Focal Dystonia, whose primary symptom is paralysis, is a condition with an excellent possibility for recovery.

Focal Dystonia is technically defined as the involuntary firing of muscle tissues. For instrumental musicians that may be a symptom but most often it’s paralysis of the embouchure, breath, tongue, or fingers. The paralysis makes it impossible to create and send sound to the instrument.

The usual response is to treat the symptoms of paralysis by making a conscious effort to restore air/embouchure function. However, since the malfunction is being motivated by the subconscious, we cannot treat symptoms of paralysis at the conscious level of awareness. We must understand what is motivating the subconscious to cause paralysis.

The paralysis of Focal Dystonia is always motivated at the subconscious by the players expectation of failure, emotional pain, and physical discomfort. Recovery begins with the process of altering the expectation of failure to and expectation of success. That can only occur when the player creates a new history of success. The process is simple but requires determination, discipline, and persistence.

Roger Rocco

IF YOU DON'T BECOME THE MASTER OF THE MUSIC, THE MINDLESS BRASS TUBING IN YOUR HANDS WILL BECOME THE MASTER MOTIVATOR OF YOUR PARALYSIS.

THE FEEL GOOD METHOD DOES NOT FEEL GOOD!

FEELING GOOD WHEN YOU PLAY CAN ONLY OCCUR AS A BY-PRODUCT OF PERFORMING WITH A RESONANT SOUND. YOU CANNOT MOTIVATE EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE BY ATTEMPTING TO FEEL GOOD FIRST. 

SOUND MOTIVATES SUBCONSCIOUS FUNCTION. CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL AWARENESS PREVENTS TONE PRODUCTION BECAUSE THE PROCESS IS INCREDABLY COMPLEX AND WE DO NOT HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY TO EXECUTE THE MECHANICS. IF LIFE SUPPORT BECAME AN INTELLECTUAL ENDEVOR, DEATH WOULD BE THE IMMEDIATE RESULT.

Unfortunately, severe physical discomfort is a powerfully distracting symptom of Focal Dystonia.
Our usual response to pain is to eliminate the pain which is what is going on with everyone who seeks my help. A good friend once told me, It feels like I'm trying to push a piano up the stairs when I play.

The subconscious is motivating fear, pain, and paralysis in response to an expectation of failure, which is based on a recent history of failure.

To eliminate the symptoms, you must eliminate what is motivating them. An expectation of success, based on creating a new history of success, is the medicine I prescribe to everyone.

H.A. Vandercook  

Keep it simple.

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Adolph Herseth

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece).
Transfer the singing and buzzing to the trumpet (instrument).

Roger Rocco

You can not have a high level of musical commitment with a low level of musical awareness.

Limited expectations of success produce limited results.

When the horn gets in the way, get away from the horn.

SING BUZZ PLAY

Once a new history and expectation of success has been established away from the instrument and has been transferred to the instrument, it will no longer have a paralyzing influence on buzzing the sound created in the mouthpiece. The instrument will freely allow the buzzing to be motivated by consciously singing the music mentally while playing the mouthpiece inside the instrument and ultimately...

IT'S JUST THE SINGING!

FROM SILENCE TO SOUND

VERY OFTEN, THE FIRST SYMPTOM OF FOCAL DYSTONIA IS THE INABILITY TO PRODUCE A STARTING NOTE.

 Adolph Herseth

There’s nothing wrong with your chops (breath, tongue, fingers). Your mind is messing them up.

Paralysis by Analysis

THE CAUSE

The primary cause is the gradual development of a history and expectation of failure triggers a paralyzing protective mechanism in the subconscious mind. In time the expectation of failure and impending doom becomes a conditioned reflex (Pavlov) associated with and reinforced by the instrument.

We become sabotaged by our subconscious because we always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.

Roger Rocco

My job is very simple. The musicians who come to me for help have drifted away from their awareness and commitment to the music into self awareness and self analysis. I only need to redirect them back to a powerful awareness and commitment to the musical sounds they want to produce.

There are many possible conditions of playing that lead to a paralyzing relationship with the instrument. I refer to the paralyzing relationship as The Hot Stove Syndrome. This condition always results from experiencing too much failure over an extended period of time. I rarely see the syndrome in very young and experienced musicians because there has not been enough time for it to develop. However, I frequently notice it in high school level musicians who have been playing for several years and are influenced by analytical teachers or their analytical perfectionist personalities.

THE IMPERFECT PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

The perfectionists personality is never satisfied about anything they accomplish with an instrument in their hands. Gradually, the subconscious mind considers the instrument to be the cause of emotional dissatisfaction.

The subconscious or reactive mind seeks to protect us from emotional and physical harm by inducing fear, action, or paralysis. When a history of failure has developed with an instrument in the hands, the subconscious mind associates the resulting emotional pain and physical discomfort with the object.

A great conflict develops between the subconscious reactive mind, which wants the player to remove the instrument from the hands, and the conscious will, which is overriding by continuing to hold it. Unfortunately, the subconscious mind has powerful control over the inner universe of our bodies, so it reacts by causing paralysis of the mechanics of playing.

COMMON CONDITIONS OF PLAYING THAT LEAD TO THE PARALYSIS OF FD.

1. Focus on self awareness, self analysis, or the instrument.
2. Influence of low level performance either self motivated or externally motivated.
3. Fear of failure and self doubt.
4. Not understand the mechanism of success.

Arnold Jacobs

We cannot master playing an instrument without mastering our awareness and understanding of the music first. That is like trying to learn to speak without first becoming aware of the sound of words.

Roger Rocco

Sound Motivates Function

Music is an auditory art form not a mechanical one. We must emphasize sound rather than mechanics in our playing and teaching.

In our everyday lives, the mechanics of accomplishment are motivated by the accomplishment.
We don’t consciously think about how to pick up a glass and bring it to our mouth. We just do it
beautifully without paralyzing self awareness and self analysis.

The music tells us everything we need to know. 

Adolph Herseth

Sound is the criterion for how we do this and that.

Think sound not mechanics.  

Shinichi Suzuki

We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned how to speak.

THE ENDLESS PROCESS OF RECOVERY

Since the cause of malfunction is the result of drifting away from musical awareness into self awareness, recovery can only be achieved by re-establishing a powerful awareness of the sound we want to produce.

Adolph Herseth

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece). TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE TRUMPET.

Bud says nothing about air/embouchure analysis, tongue, or any other mechanics of playing.

Arnold Jacobs

It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.

RECOVERY PROCEDURES FOR BRASS PLAYERS.

In my personal playing and teaching, I emphasize external mouthpiece playing over internal mouthpiece playing to avoid the paralyzing influence of the instrument.

I have developed several alternate instruments (not toys!), that accept a mouthpiece, for the tuba.

NONE OF THESE ALTERNATE INSTRUMENTS HAS ANY PARALYZING INFLUENCE BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALWAYS FREELY ACCEPTED ANY SOUND I CREATE IN THE MOUTHPIECE. 

Cone or Funnel
Leadpipe and Funnel
Extended Tube and Funnel
Valveless Tuba

The BERP and the Arturo Sandoval Valve Section are also very useful tools to encourage singing and buzzing without the paralyzing influence of an instrument.

I notice there are many brass players who have a BERP attached to their leadpipe but unfortunately, it's nothing more than a Christmas decoration because it's used so little.

Mario Guarneri recommends using the BERP 50% of the time in practice sessions.

I play the BERP 100% of the time even when my mouthpiece is in the leadpipe rather than next to it. It doesn't matter where my mouthpiece is located no matter if I'm in my studio or on the stage. 

Roger Rocco

If we don't transcend the instrument with a powerful awareness of sound, that originates in the conscious mind and is realized in the mouthpiece, the instrument will influence us by powerfully motivating paralysis, involuntary motor function, and discomfort. 

The cone or funnel provides amplification for the buzzing which is an important factor in creating a resonant tone. The physical size of substitute instrument has a psychological influence on the fullness of the sound. I notice that I’m able to produce the most resonant tone buzzing into the valveless tuba. I have removed the valves from a large Boosey and Hawkes, Imperial Eb tuba. Even though the mouthpiece sound sent through the leadpipe, does not extend beyond the first valve casing, the tone sounds like it’s being amplified by the entire instrument.

I recommend 35-45 minutes of external buzzing daily (music not exercises before transferring the sound to the instrument. I enjoy buzzing along with everything I hear on my favorite recordings. All music should first be learned vocally and on the mouthpiece to avoid creating failure with the instrument.

Artur Schnabel

I always prepare the music mentally before I realize it at the piano.

Roger Rocco

I gave up tuba playing long ago. Now, I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves.

Play the mouthpiece inside the instrument, not the instrument.

The function of a teacher is to create opportunities for success. We must provide those opportunities for ourselves as well as others. I have learned more from my students than they have from me.

THE INSTRUMENT TRANSFER UTILIZING THE GOLDEN RATIO, 3:1

1. Sets of singing and buzzing three times, in any combination, before transferring to the instrument.
Repeat sets or once as needed until the transfer is successful.

2. Transfer the mental singing and buzzing to the instrument as if the instrument does not exist.

In 1976, I was forced to leave The Seattle Symphony prematurely, and return to Chicago, with my tail between my legs. I had become completely paralyzed and could not perform in the annual
Wagner Ring Cycle. For six weeks prior to the start of the Ring, I spent six weeks in Chicago trying to solve the mystery of what was happening. I desperately practiced 12-14 hours a day but returned to Seattle without even the slightest improvement.

It’s a three and a half day drive from Seattle to my home in Chicago, so I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. I kept a mouthpiece on the passenger seat and frequently played
Interstate Concertos and Symphonies while driving.

After a while, it occurred to me that my mouthpiece playing was totally free and that it had always been so. There was nothing wrong with the function of my chops, tongue, or air. I was very puzzled and intrigued by my enlightened realization.

I decided that when I arrived home, I would pretend the tuba did not exist when I placed the mouthpiece in the leadpipe of the instrument.

I WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE TUBA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS!!!

In fact, I was not playing the tuba. I was playing the mouthpiece inside the tuba and it accepted the sound freely without causing me to become paralyzed. The tuba lost it’s influence because I had successfully transcended it’s paralyzing influence by freely producing precise musical sounds in the mouthpiece that could be accepted rather than rejected by the air column within the horn.

In all wind instruments, no sound is possible inside the tubing of the instrument until it’s first created in the mouthpiece, double reed, or head joint.

IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE SOUNDS FIRST CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE MUST BE SYMPATHETIC WITH THE FREQUENCIES THAT THE AIR COLUMN OF THE INSTRUMENT CAN ACCEPT OR THOSE FREQUENCIES WILL BE REJECTED BY THE INSTRUMENT.

TRANSCENDING THE INSTRUMENT

I suggest practicing with a variety of instruments and mouthpieces to reduce the impact of physical feedback. I find in my own practice, that with the change of equipment comes a renewed and elevated mental commitment to the music. Awareness of feel and the influence of the instrument is greatly diminished when I'm mentally committed to the music.

CASE STUDY

A friend advanced to the final audition for a principal position with a major American orchestra. Just before his audition, a major malfunction with his instrument made it impossible to play. He was forced to borrow an unfamiliar instrument and perform without preparation.

When he related the horror story, I told him it actually was a wonderful opportunity. He was challenged to a higher mental commitment to the music and won the position.

CASE STUDY

As a member of the French Army, trumpeter Maurice Andre was without access to an instrument for six months. However, he did have a mouthpiece so he practiced extensively without the trumpet. When he finally had access to his trumpet, he found that his tone production and general performance had elevated significantly.

CASE STUDY

As child Arnold Jacobs, spent significant time hospitalized for asthma. However, he practiced his mouthpiece while in the hospital. After being discharged, he always found that his playing would improve.

Jake first played a bugle in the Boy Scouts. Later, he progressed the trumpet and trombone which was the instrument he decided to settle on. He ended up on the tuba at the age of fifteen, only because his trombone was lost on the car trip from California to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he was awarded a full scholarship. They didn't have a substitute trombone but there was a tuba he could play. He won the principal tuba position with the Boston Symphony three years later.

The different instruments and mouthpieces meant nothing to Jake because he was only committed to the music he wanted the audience to hear.

Since woodwind players don’t buzz music on their mouthpiece or reed, I ask them to sing vocally and simultaneously finger the instrument to raise their awareness of the music. String and percussion players have a great advantage because the can vocalize simultaneously as they play.

Glenn Gould stopped giving live performances because his vocalization was distracting to the audience. However, his voice could still be heard faintly on recordings. The same was true of the recordings of Maestro Arturo Toscanini.

It’s very important to understand that the mental singing of every note must occur simultaneously as the notes are played.

CASE STUDY

I recently has a conversation with a horn player who I knew many years ago when we were students playing in The Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I recall that he was a talented musician but did not stand out among a group of exceptionally skilled horn players in the orchestra. His teacher recommended that he find some exceptional niche he could develop to separate himself from the crowd.

He decided that he would become a master of the natural horn. Today, he is a world renown soloist who has many wonderful recordings and has taught at several major universities.

When I remarked that mastering the natural horn brought his playing to the next level, he voiced his agreement. When I said, All horns are natural, he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.  

Arnold Jacobs

I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.

Most of the musicians who come to me for help have developed severe or complete paralysis of their chops, air, or fingers when they play. There is never any paralysis of body parts when they are not holding or playing an instrument.

When the paralysis is severe, the overwhelming flood of uncomfortable physical feedback from the instrument or their body parts, makes it impossible to consciously focus on the music.
A greater amount of time singing and buzzing must occur away from the instrument.

The most common paralyzing symptom is the inability to execute a starting note. The reason such paralysis that physical feedback (input) is dominate over awareness of sound, which is what motivates the output to produce it. If there is no conscious awareness of the sound, there is nothing for the subconscious mind to respond to in order to create it.

In the absence of a powerful conscious awareness of sound, the subconscious attempts to create sound awareness by feel either at the chops or often with the woodwind players, fingers. The subconscious attempts to convert lips or fingers into ears.

Roger Rocco

FEEL and FAIL are four letter words to a brass (woodwind, string, percussion, singer) player.

SING VOCALLY and BUZZ the mouthpiece externally as many times as necessary until you are able to transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument. When you can maintain concentration on mentally singing each note as you play it, you will transcend the paralyzing influence of the instrument.  

To alleviate first note paralysis, raise musical awareness by executing repetitions of vocal singing and buzzing until the paralysis subsides. Freedom from paralysis will always eventually occur with enough repetitions so persistence and discipline are very important. However, the initial release of paralysis will usually be short lived so the procedure must be repeated for an extended period.

AN EXPECTATION OF SUCCESS CAN ONLY RESULT FROM CREATING A HISTORY OF SUCCESS BASED ON KNOWING HOW TO SUCCEED.

Musicians become paralyzed because they have created a history of failure which also motivates their expectation of failure. We always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.

Maxwell Maltz (Psycho Cybernetics)

The mechanisms of success and failure are the same.



IF WE HAVE THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO RECOVER, THEN WE MUST HAVE A METHODOLOGY BASED ON AWARENESS OF SOUND, TO TAKE THE TIME TO CREATE IT. RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS BECAUSE WE CANNOT ERASE OUR PAST. WE MUST REPLACE OUR PAST FAILURE BY CREATING NEW SUCCESS MOMENT TO MOMENT, EVERY NOTE, EVERY DAY!

SINCE IT REQUIRED CONSIDERABLE TIME FOR THE PARALYSIS OF FOCAL DYSTONIA TO DEVELOP, IT REQUIRES TIME FOR THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY ALLEVIATE IT.

Arnold Jacobs

WE MUST GIVE DOMINANCE TO THE MUSIC, NOT THE MEANS TO PRODUCE IT.

Adolph Herseth

TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE INSTRUMENT.

I RECOMMEND PRACTICING ENTIRE SESSIONS ON THE MOUTHPIECE ALONE TO AVOID HAVING PROBLEMS CREEP INTO YOUR PLAYING. 

Roger Rocco

SELF DOUBT IS A SELF INFLICTED WOUND. RECOVERY MUST BE A SELF MOTIVATED PROCESS.

FOCAL DYSTONIA IS NOT A CAREER ENDING CONDITION WITHOUT A POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY FOR RECOVERY.

FOCAL DYSTONIA IS A TREATABLE CONDITION IF THE MUSICIAN HAS THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO INVEST THE EFFORT AND TIME REQUIRED TO RECOVER.

RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS THAT GRADUALLY BECOMES EASIER TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN. 

WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO ACCEPT OUR MOMENTS OF FAILURE AND TO CELEBRATE OUR MOMENTS OF SUCCESS.

SING BUZZ PLAY

Epilogue

Our well intentioned music education institutions seek to develop instrumental performance skills quickly by focusing on self analysis, mechanical function, and instruments. A group of educators once argued teaching method to me by stating that technical analysis and instrumental focus is what everyone can understand rather than musical sound. I responded by arguing for the opposite view that the music is perceptive and understandable rather than subconscious mechanical function. We live our lives without any conscious knowledge of the complex mechanics of life support. Yet from birth we are highly sensitive to and aware of sound. Every child recognizes the melody to Happy Birthday without knowing anything technical about music.

I often remind teachers of the question they hear most often from their students. They ask, "How does it go?" We learn language because we are exposed to the sound of words not anatomy and breathing lessons. My success as an instrumental teacher has always been the result of communicating what the music should sound like. My limited technical knowledge of the various instruments I taught was always an advantage not a hindrance. Because of their long term exposure, the students always know more about their instruments but I knew much more about the music.

Today, incredible performance levels that are being achieved by musicians who have little self awareness, mechanical awareness, and don't pay much attention to the instrument in their hands. But they have a vivid and powerful awareness of the music and are completely committed to it.

SET YOUR EMBOUCHURE AND BLOW is a mindless shortcut to nowhere.

Endless focus on instrumental performance does not elicit much music. However, bountiful focus on music leads to limitless instrumental performance. 

The existing antiquated and self perpetuating pedagogy prevents such development and often becomes the poison inducing paralysis. Sadly, I work with such inflicted musicians daily. Recovery is a long and difficult process. Prevention is the best medicine.

I once lamented to one of my students that the war against traditional analytical pedagogy was a frustrating uphill battle that I could not win alone.

He responded, We are soldiers in a small but growing army.

In 2015, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Arnold Jacobs. Without his powerful influence, there would be no music, no blog, no career, and no life.

THE TROOPS THANK YOU AGAIN JAKE! 















 








Friday, January 17, 2014

"GO FOR THE PRODUCT"

Adolph Herseth

Paralysis by Analysis

Sound is the criterion for how you do this and that

First sing vocally then buzz the mouthpiece. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.

There's nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.

It's amazing what your chops can do when you get your (analytical) mind out of the way.

Arnold Jacobs

I’m just ordering products (musical sounds).

Being aware of what sound like is not as important as being aware of what you want to sound like.

Your audience does not care how it feels when you play so neither should you. You audience only cares about how you sound, so should you.

There are two instruments. One in the head and one in the hands. The instrument in the hands is a perfect mirror reflecting the one in the head. 

The instrument provides a readout of our thoughts.

Roger Rocco

The object in your hands is not the real instrument. YOU are the real instrument.

Sound motivates function.  

Your instrument is already full of air but it has no sound. Fill it with sound.

That's just a hollow length of brass tubing at the end of your mouthpiece. It has no intelligence or sound of it's own, but it already is full of air. You must fill the tube with musical sounds that originate as conscious awareness in your mind and are created in the mouthpiece. It is not necessary to intellectually understand the mechanics of how to accomplish tone production. Your conscious awareness of the sound will motivate your subconscious mind to learn and execute the mechanics if it's given enough time.  

You don't need to study or be aware of your lips or breath when you play just as it is not necessary to be consciously aware of your vocal chords or air when you speak. Your subconscious mind will realize the complex mechanics necessary to produce sound if you don't consciously interfere. 

We can only have a vague awareness of embouchure and air while playing. However, we can easily have a vivid awareness of the sound we want to produce. 

Conscious self awareness and self analysis will cause you to bypass the power of your subconscious mind. Paralysis is the inevitable result.  

The audience does not care how you feel when you play so you should not care either. However, the audience does care about how you sound and so should you.

Feeling good when you play is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot motivate effective performance by attempting to feel good first.

If you don't influence the instrument with a vivid conscious awareness of the music, it will influence you with uncomfortable feedback and paralysis.

The only thing that matters is your mental commitment to the music. Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to motivate whatever playing mechanics are required to realize a musical commitment when an instrument is in your hands. 


We cannot motivate effective mechanical function by receiving messages and sending messages simultaneously. Our nervous systems function most efficiently in DC rather than AC. It's like a one way street. 

You can sing without buzzing but you cannot buzz without singing.

Play your mouthpiece as if the instrument does not exist. The instrument is nothing more than a mindless length of brass tubing that is an extension of the mouthpiece. 

The sound that emerges from the bell of your instrument is an honest reflection of the sound that begins as a conscious awareness in the brain and is realized in the mouthpiece.

All my playing is on the mouthpiece alone. The only thing that varies is what is on the end of the stem.

H. A. Vandercook

Keep it simple.

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Eric Hyland

You cannot sit on the stage and in the audience at the same time.

Maurice Andre 

Brass players are much too concerned about their embouchure and to little concerned about how they should sound. 

Jake first heard me play in 1966 when I was 17 years old. After listening for about a half hour he said, “You sound like you have already been studying with me for three years.” At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of his statement. Later, I realized that I actually had been studying with him for three years. In my personal practice, I was totally committed to imitating  his sound every day.

I was very fortunate that there were no other music teachers preaching air and embouchure analysis. I focused only on trying to sound like Jake. Sound awareness became the only factor motivating my development as a young tuba player and later as a teacher.

Arnold Jacobs

The key to playing an instrument successfully can be found in speech.

We must give dominance to the music over our awareness of what we are doing physically or the instrument.

Shinichi Suzuki

We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned how to speak, which is the imitation of sound.

What motivates everyone to create language is their awareness of the sound of words. Over time, the ability to talk occurs without any conscious knowledge of the mechanics of speech.

THE COMPLEX MECHANICS OF SPEECH ARE EXECUTED PRECIOUSLY BY OUR SUBCONSCIOUS RESPONDING TO OUR VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF WORDS.
The mechanics required to produce sound on any instrument are much to complex to be motivated by our conscious intellect. We must motivate the power of the subconscious mind to provide the necessary motor function.

OUR VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF THE SOUND WE WANT TO PRODUCE MUST DOMINATE OUR THOUGHTS OTHERWISE WE WILL BECOME PARALYZED. 

Virtually every musician who comes to me for help has lost their ability to function because their conscious awareness has become dominated by how they feel physically, mechanics of playing, or the instrument.

FOCAL DYSTONIA is a paralyzing condition (Val Salva) that is motivated by the subconscious mind in response to the negative conditioning associated with the instrument. If the player experiences too much failure, the resulting anxiety and physical discomfort becomes associated with and reinforced by the instrument. The subconscious reacts the same as it does to any harmful or unpleasant situation by causing paralysis. The instrument becomes a hot stove.

FOCAL DYSTONIA has become a common diagnosis for mechanical malfunction or paralysis. Unfortunately, it is described as an incurable or untreatable condition that is career ending. Too many wonderful musicians have given up their playing careers because they are not aware that FD is treatable and that mechanical function can be restored. Almost all of my teaching now involves helping paralyzed musicians begin the process of recovery.

The process of recovery is endless. I'm 40 years into mine. I describe the process like being pursued by a tiger which is fatal only if you don't outrun it.

I outrun the tiger every time the instrument is in my hands by making a mental commitment to the music by singing every note as I play it. This allows me to transcend all uncomfortable physical feedback reinforced powerfully by the instrument. How I feel physically or emotionally or the instrument mean nothing. It's only the music that matters. 

My vivid mental commitment to the music always motivates my subconscious to do whatever is necessary to realize it with the instrument. The only time it doesn't work is when my musical awareness is not accurate, I run out of breath, I use an incorrect fingering, or a valve malfunctions. 

If I don't have a vivid and accurate conscious awareness of every note, my subconscious will attempt to substitute ineffective feel awareness for the weak or missing auditory awareness.

PARALYZING FOCAL DYSTONIA IS THE RESULT OF NOT HAVING A MUSICAL AWARENESS IN THE CONSCIOUS MIND THAT THE SUBCONSCIOUS CAN RESPOND TO. NOTHING MORE!  

Arnold Jacobs

I want you to have the simplistic mind of a child not an intellectual adult.

I sing the notes in my head as I play them, It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.

I always believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals. 

I don’t care if everything you are doing is wrong if your playing sounds good.

The logical conclusion of that statement must be that if your playing sounds good, you cannot be doing anything wrong.

Over the years, many of my most successful students have had their playing destroyed or damaged by other teachers and clinicians who tell them they have an incorrect embouchure or breathing problems.

Fortunately, I have always helped them recover by restoring their conscious commitment to the sound.

Roger Rocco

Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to execute your vivid conscious awareness of the sound you want to produce.

A vivid conscious awareness of the sound you want to produce is achieved when you have a powerful mental commitment to singing each note in your mind as you play it. 

If you are not fully committed to a vivid awareness of the sound you want to produce, the instrument will have a powerful paralyzing influence on your subconscious mind because you will attempt to play by feel. 

Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.

Attempting to play by the sense of feel is like trying to drain a swimming pool with a straw or driving the wrong way down a one way street.

You must be an honest musician because you have a lie detector in your hands. 

We get into trouble when our awareness of the sound is vague or does not exist. Since there is no auditory awareness to respond to, the subconscious mind reacts to create sound awareness using the sense of feel. The mouthpiece is on the lips, so the subconscious mind will attempt to convert them into ears if there is no awareness of sound in the inner ear of the conscious mind. The lips are quite capable of producing sound but they are very poor detectors of sound.

The unfortunate result of attempting to play by feel is that paralysis is inevitable. Since there is no auditory awareness there is nothing for the subconscious mind to respond to.

Robert Collier (The Secret of the Ages)

The conscious mind is the gateway accessing the subconscious. where the real power lies. 

Mark Douglas (Trading in the Zone)

The zone is the state of mind necessary to create an accomplishment.

Arnold Jacobs

Go for the product. The product is not blowing or fingering. It's musical sound.

With an instrument in our hands, the product is never blowing, fingering, or other physical maneuvers. The mechanics required to create sound with an instrument are much too complex for anyone to motivate by conscious intellect. We don’t have the intelligence or awareness of our internal bodies to motivate such complex motor function.

Roger Rocco

When we attempt to create motor function by using conscious intellect, we bypass the great power of the subconscious mind and failure in inevitable. Computers were developed to compensate for the weakness of our conscious intellect.   

It wasn't necessary to study your vocal chords to learn how to speak. It is not necessary to study your lips to learn how to produce musical sounds. In both instances, the sound of words or music motivate mechanical function.

The music tells us everything we need to know because it will motivate the power of our subconscious mind.

If our powerful subconscious mind stopped maintaining life support, we would die immediately because we could not replace it with weak conscious intellect. 

CONSCIOUS MUSICAL IMAGINATION IS A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR OF SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL FUNCTION. 

INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS IS A POWERFUL DESTROYER OF SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL FUNCTION BECAUSE THE INTELLECTUAL MIND IS TOO WEAK AND UNINFORMED TO EXECUTES SUCH COMPLEX MOTOR SKILLS.     

Meredith Willson (“The Think System” from The Music Man)

You only have to think the tune to have to come out perfectly clear.

Adolph Herseth

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece). Transfer the singing and buzzing to the horn.

Roger Rocco

SING BUZZ PLAY

The most important concept I learned from Herseth, Jacobs, and Kleinhammer was that the real challenge when playing an instrument is mental not physical. They had a powerful mental commitment to the music which resulted in extraordinary sounds emerging from their bells.

We must first establish the state of mind that will motivate the physical. There are so many with instruments in their hands but there are so few who can function well. The discrepancy can only be explained as a difference in the mind of those who can and those who cannot function well.

THE HOLY BRASS GRAIL

The paralysis that results from our lack of musical awareness has a very simple treatment which has nothing to do with mirrors or breathing devises.

WE MUST ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF THE SOUND OF EVERY NOTE AS WE PLAY IT.

We only need to have the courage to allow our awareness of the sound to motivate the mechanics necessary to play.

The mouthpiece is a powerful tool because it encourages mental awareness (singing) of the music and tone production if played loudly. The player will be encouraged to do whatever is necessary to provide the amplification ordinarily supplied by the instrument. I encourage brass players to use a plastic funnel as a bell to amplify their mouthpiece playing. It makes the sound more resonant and tone production is a somewhat easier.

Arnold Jacobs

The instrument only amplifies and colors the sound which is created in the brain and realized in the mouthpiece. The instrument has no sound of it's own.

I was a successful brass player until the first teacher came along.

Jake's first experience as a brass player occurred when he came home from The Boy Scouts with a valveless bugle in his hands. He had offered to learn the instrument for his troop. His mother was a trained musician but she new nothing about playing brass instruments. She simply played the notes on the piano and Jake imitated what he heard.

That simple beginning had a powerful impact on his development and ultimately on the many brass players who have been influenced by his playing and teaching.

Roger Rocco

I gave up tuba playing long ago. Now I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves.

The mouthpiece is a powerful tool because playing it without the instrument encourages mental singing and tone production,  


The function of the instrument is limited to amplifying and coloring the sound that is created in the mouthpiece. It has no sound of its own. 

The frequency of the sound created in the mouthpiece must be precisely accurate otherwise the air column within the instrument will reject it.

It's our vivid conscious awareness of WHAT we want to sound like that's important. We must have the courage to allow the great power of the subconscious mind to motivate HOW to create it. 

THE GOLDEN RATIO (3:1)

To elevate their musical awareness, I encourage brass players to sing vocally and buzz musical phrases 3 times (any combination of singing and buzzing) externally before transferring to the instrument. The sets may be repeated as necessary to maintain mental focus by singing the music while playing.

NOTHING MATTERS BUT A VIVID AWARENESS OF AND COMMITMENT TO THE SOUND WE WANT TO PRODUCE.  THE INSTRUMENT IN OUR HANDS WILL HONESTLY REFLECT THE LEVEL OF OUR COMMITMENT. 

Self awareness and paralyzing self analysis leads us to the Witches Castle where we are plagued by flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Yellow Brick Road will lead us to Emerald City where.......

IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING!

IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING!

IT'S JUST THE SINGING AND BUZZING! ..... EVERY NOTE, EVERY DAY!


I EMPHATICALLY ENCOURAGE ALL INSTRUMENTALISTS AND VOCALISTS TO REJECT THE SELF ANALYSIS AND SELF AWARENESS THAT IS PARALYZING THEM.

YOUR CONSCIOUS COMMITMENT TO THE MUSIC WILL MOTIVATE AND GUIDE YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS MIND TO PROVIDE THE MECHANICAL FUNCTION NECESSARY TO REALIZE IT WITH AN INSTRUMENT OR THE VOICE.

COME BACK TO THE MUSIC BECAUSE IT TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW. 



  










Friday, April 19, 2013

THE PARALYZING IMPACT OF AIR AND EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS

Adolph Herseth

There is nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.

Paralysis by Analysis.

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece).
Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.

Arnold Jacobs

I believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.

We must not give dominance to the instrument or our various body parts. We must give dominance only to the music.

Robert Dorer 

You have to turn up the volume on the trumpet in your head.

Roger Rocco

THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW

SING BUZZ PLAY

My challenge as an instrumental teacher is very, very simple. The instrumental musicians who come to me for help with there inability to function have drifted away from their dominant awareness of the music to to paralyzing self awareness. I ONLY NEED TO DIRECT THEM BACK TO THE MUSIC. 

In over forty-five years of teaching, no young brass or woodwind player has ever asked me one question about air or embouchure.  The question I have heard quite often is, "How does it go?"I have great success raising their awareness of how the music should sound.

Many experienced brass or woodwind players think, or have been told, they have air or embouchure malfunction. I have never encountered a single wind player who actually has a problem with air, embouchure, tongue, or fingers. Their paralysis is always the result of distracting self awareness in their conscious mind. 

A VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF MUSICAL SOUND IS THE ULTIMATE DISTRACTION FROM PARALYZING SELF AWARENESS.    

THE BRASS TRILOGY

1. There is no reason for success or failure other than our state of mind.

2. Sound motivates function.

3. It’s just the singing.

Self doubt is a self inflicted wound that results from an expectation of failure. We always realize our expectations. 

Courage is the first step toward greatness.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It's the will to function in spite of it.

In over forty-five years of teaching, no inexperienced young wind player has ever asked me one question about air or embouchure. However, countless more experienced musicians have said that they have air or embouchure malfunction because someone told them so.

Much of my current teaching is directed to professional brass and woodwind players worldwide who have lost their ability to function. They have been told by other musicians, teachers, and the medical community, that they have Focal Dystonia, an incurable neurological condition. Sometimes they are needlessly prescribed injections into their embouchure.

With the exception of some woodwind players who experience paralysis in their hands, most wind players experience the symptoms of tongue, air, or embouchure malfunction. Often they are advised by teachers or the medical community that they cannot continue their career.

THE MORE A MUSICIAN CONSCIOUSLY ATTEMPTS TO CORRECT THEIR SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE, THE WORSE THEIR PARALYSIS BECOMES. IN EVERY INSTANCE, THEY HAVE CONSCIOUSLY ANALYZED THEIR TONGUE, EMBOUCHURE, AIR, OR HANDS UNTIL THEY BECAME PARALYZED. TRAGICALLY, PARALYZING SELF ANALYSIS IS PRESCRIBED AND ENCOURAGED BY MANY TEACHERS AND MUSIC SCHOOLS WORLDWIDE.

When giving a lecture or masterclass, I frequently ask attendees if they think they have air or embouchure problems or if they have been told they have problems. I’m not surprised that about one third of the musicians in the group respond affirmatively. I always assure them that there is nothing wrong with their malfunctioning body parts. Their physical symptoms of failure are the result of a problem with their conscious state of mind.

I HAVE NEVER ENCOUNTERED ANY WIND PLAYER WHO HAD ANYTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH THEIR EMBOUCHURE, FINGERS, TONGUE, OR ABILITY TO EXPEL AIR. HOWEVER, I HAVE ENCOUNTERED MANY MUSICIANS WHO THINK THEY HAVE SOMETHING PHYSICALLY WRONG. THEIR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE ARE THE RESULT OF AN INEFFECTIVE STATE OF MIND.

Several years ago a professional trumpet player contacted me regarding his "embouchure dystonia".
His first words just before his initial lesson were, "Roger, I have bad news. I have just returned from the doctor. He told me there is nothing physically wrong with my chops."

I replied, "That's the good news!" 

A teacher once told me that if I could cut the tongue out of my mouth, I would be a good brass player. Yes, my tongue was not functioning well to articulate notes playing the tuba. However, I had no problems when I used my tongue to talk or chew food.

THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH MY TONGUE.

Another teacher noticed that I was not breathing well so he told me to sit in front of a mirror and observe the expansion and contraction of my chest and stomach. A week later at my next lesson, I told him that the visual analysis he had prescribed, paralyzed me to the point that I could barely play. He angrily exclaimed that if I didn’t do the visual analysis, I would never play.

I WAS QUITE HEALTHY,  SO IT WAS OBVIOUS THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH MY ABILITY TO INHALE OR EXPEL AIR FROM MY LUNGS.

Still another teacher told me that I had embouchure problems because there wasn’t enough room between my upper lip and nose to shift the mouthpiece 2/3 upper lip-1/3 lower lip. He told me to cut the upper rim of my mouthpiece so there would be room to move it higher on my face.

THERE WAS NOTHING PHYSICALLY WRONG WITH WHERE I COMFORTABLY PLACED THE MOUTHPIECE ON MY LIPS WITHOUT SHIFTING UP OR DOWN.

There is plenty of air at your lips when you play cracked (“rejected”) notes.

You are an expert breather. You have been breathing to sustain your life for a long time.

Arnold Jacobs

The key to playing well is found in speech.

No child studies their breathing , tongue manipulation, or vocal chords in order to say words. Their ability to speak is motivated by their awareness of the sound of words.

It’s the conscious awareness of the sound of words that motivates the subconscious mind to execute all the physical mechanics that are required to speak.

THE DETECTABLE vs THE UNDETECTABLE ELEMENTS OF PLAYING

We are all familiar with the “toys” many brass teachers use to detect air and embouchure. They include embouchure magnifying mirrors, clear plastic mouthpieces, embouchure visualizing rims, bags, balloons, tubes, respirometers, and other medical devices.

In all my years as a professional musician and teacher,I have never once observed a competent brass player using any visual or mechanical devises.

The only brass players I have seen using them are those who are struggling to play. These devices are useless because they attempt to substitute weak conscious awareness of playing mechanics for a powerful conscious awareness of sound.

The subconscious mind has complete awareness and command of all the mechanical skills that are necessary to play an instrument or do anything else. Those skills are motivated by sound not paralyzing analysis. To motivate complex mechanical function the subconscious reactive mind is much more powerful than the conscious intellectual mind. A flea has no intellect yet it can execute great mechanical skill in order to fly. Our subconscious mind skillfully execute thousands of commands to our various body parts to sustain life, walk, or talk .

Substituting weak conscious intellect for powerful subconscious function inevitably results in failure.

We must not bypass the immense power of the subconscious reactive mind by attempting to substitute with weak conscious intellect. We cannot detect motion or pressure of air, muscular manipulations, or frequency of pitch using the sense of feel which is relatively weak compared to the senses of sight or sound.

To an extent, we can detect air flow and pressure away from playing by blowing on our hands or into a mechanical device. However, there is very little ability to detect air flow or pressure while playing. We have great ability to detect sound as we play. Awareness of sound is a powerful motivator mechanical function. 

Feel and fail are four letter words to a brass player.

Attempting to play by feel is like trying to empty a swimming pool with a straw.

When you try to play by feel, you are going the wrong way down a one way street.

Arnold Jacobs

We cannot motivate function through the use of sensory symptoms. We must motivate function through motor (muscular) systems.

The use of mechanical “toys” attempts to bring awareness of playing mechanics to the sense of sight. There is an important reason why there are no mechanical devises or mirrors in my studio.

WE CANNOT PLAY AN INSTRUMENT BY MOTIVATING THE SENSES OF SIGHT OR FEEL. OUR GOAL PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT IS TO PRODUCE SOUND. AWARENESS OF SOUND MUST BE THE MOTIVATING ELEMENT. WE HAVE GREAT POTENTIAL FOR AWARENESS OF SOUND IN OUR IMAGINATION. 

THE SOUND THAT WE PRODUCE EXTERNALLY WITH AN INSTRUMENT MUST ORIGINATE INTERNALLY IN OUR IMAGINATIVE MIND. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE THE COURAGE TO FOCUS PRIMARILY ON THE SOUND OF THE INTERNAL INSTRUMENT. 

IF WE ARE LISTENING TOO INTENTLY THE EXTERNAL INSTRUMENT, WE WILL ATTEMPT TO CREATE FUNCTION WITH SENSORY AWARENESS. FAILURE WILL BE THE INEVITABLE RESULT BECAUSE ONLY SOUND AWARENESS WILL MOTIVATE FUNCTION.

Some teachers use the sense of sight by using mechanical devises to distract the student from the paralysis resulting from their intellectual analysis. I have found that non-musical mechanical devises take the player further away from the sound rather than bring them closer to it.

All of the devises in my studio are instruments that function only to create musical sounds. Their purpose is not to become more aware of air or body parts.

Awareness of sound is the ultimate distraction from paralyzing analysis because it directly and powerfully motivates the mechanical skill required to produce sound.

Adolph Herseth

Think sound not mechanics.

Roger Rocco

Sound motivates function.

Imagination is much more powerful than intellect.

IMAGINATION vs. INTELLECT

Arnold Jacobs

We can have an intellectual understanding of the music but we must not be intellectual about how to produce it.

We must have the (non-intellectual) mind of a child.

Our minds must focus on telling a musical story.

The product is musical sound not mechanical function. Go for the product.

Roger Rocco

Computers were developed by powerfully imaginative minds to compensate for weaker intellectual minds.

Albert Einstein was an average student intellectually but he had a vivid conscious imagination. Imagination is a very powerful force because it motivates the power of the subconscious mind. When creating motor function, conscious intellect bypasses the power of the subconscious.

Robert Collier (The Secret of the Ages)

The conscious mind is the gateway to the power of the subconscious.

H. A. Vandercook

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Arnold Jacobs

I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lips feels or how I feel.

There are acoustical laws that must be obeyed. We must send frequencies to the instrument that it can respond to. We must sing the music in our head while playing.

IMAGINATIVE MENTAL SINGING vs. CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS

Conscious intellectual analysis with mirrors and optical devises motivates the senses to transmit information from the external tissues to the brain (input). Since the brain is focused primarily on receiving weak information through sensors, output diminishes so there is little mechanical function. Motor (muscular) function is motivated by the transmission of information from the brain to the muscle tissues (output).

Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to your conscious awareness of sound.

However, your subconscious mind will search for sound using the sense of feel if your conscious awareness of sound is vague or absent. Your subconscious mind already knows how to execute the mechanics necessary to play. Your conscious mind only needs to have a powerful awareness of the notes you want to play. When you only have a vague awareness or no conscious awareness of the sound, your subconscious mind will attempt to create a “feel” awareness of sound by converting your lips into ears. Lips have great potential to produce sound but they are very poor detectors of sound. We must prevent the subconscious mind from searching for the sound by feel in the lips. We only need to provide a vivid awareness of the sound in the conscious mind.

THE MOST VIVID CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF SOUND IS ACHIEVED BY MENTALLY SINGING WHILE PLAYING. 

 SING BUZZ PLAY

A number of years ago I observed a demonstration of which areas of the brain were active while playing an instrument. The brain of a violinist was scanned as she played. The part of her brain that was most active was the same part that is active in speech. She was speaking with sounds created by the violin rather than vocal chords.

Some sounds are labeled words and some are called music. It doesn’t matter how we label them because all sounds originate as conscious thought in the same area of the brain. The messages of sound can be transmitted to any tissue. People who have had their vocal chords removed because of cancer learn to speak crudely using other tissues in their throat.

We all learn to speak without any conscious understanding of the mechanics involved. Over time our subconscious mind learns the mechanics necessary to realize to our conscious awareness of sound. We only need to allow a child the time and repetitions necessary to make it happen. Since a brass instrument has no sound of it’s own, the sound that emerges from bell is a direct reflection of the mind of the player.

Arnold Jacobs

There are two instruments. One in the hands and one in the head. The instrument in the hands is a mirror reflecting the one in the head.     

Roger Rocco

You must be an honest musician because you have a lie detector in your hands.

(3:1) THE GOLDEN RATIO AND “THE LADDER OF AWARENESS OF SOUND”

We must have a powerful conscious awareness of the sound in order to produce a powerful resulting sound with an instrument. Vocal singing and mouthpiece buzzing are powerful tools that raise our awareness of sound. I advise students to sing and buzz, in any combination, three times to elevate their musical awareness. The sets of three should be repeated until the sound awareness has been elevated enough so that they can maintain conscious singing while playing.

Sound awareness must be powerful enough to overcome all distractions such as feel, the instrument, or the conscious analysis of mechanics. Once they have learned fingering and playing position, my elementary students only asked the following question.

HOW DOES THE MUSIC GO?

They never asked me how to play their instrument! They knew much more than me because they play them everyday. My success as a teacher and as a player has always resulted from my communicating the music to my students or myself. Yes, it’s that simple. Any music therapist knows that music has a very powerful influence on the mind.

We must have a simplistic approach to motivate the complex mechanics required to play an instrument or do anything else.    

H. A. Vandercook

Keep it simple.

THE HOT STOVE SYNDROME (PARALYZING NEGATIVE CONDITIONING)

Paralysis by Analysis inevitably results in a history of failure. Over time the physical discomfort and emotional pain the player experience becomes associated with and reinforced by the instrument. The instrument becomes a "hot stove" that the subconscious (reactive) mind rejects as harmful. The rejection results in paralysis of the embouchure, breathing, tongue, fingers, or any combination of those elements of playing.

The normal reaction to the paralysis, discomfort, and emotional pain is to consciously restore function and to feel good.

Feeling good when you play is a by-product of playing correctly. You cannot motivate correct playing by attempting to feel good first.

As the player consciously attempts to motivate the tissues and feel good, they create more failure resulting in increasing paralysis and emotional pain.

Paralysis (dystonia) is motivated by the subconscious mind in response to a history of failure. The process of restoring function can only occur if the player gradually creates a history of success.  

Most of my teaching involves helping musicians recover or develop their playing skills that have been lost, or never achieved. They usually have dedicated themselves to paralyzing analysis of their air, embouchure, and sometimes fingers. Most often the self analysis was prescribed to them by well intended teachers, technical method materials, and music schools.

My job is always very simple. I only need to alter the musician’s state of mind by directing them to focus only on the music.
 
Self analysis is not only unnecessary, it results in destructive paralysis. If children self analyzed how to speak or walk, they would never be able to do either. Many musicians devote their lives to learning how to master playing an instrument but never do.

IF YOU MASTER THE MUSIC FIRST, MASTERY PLAYING THE INSTRUMENT WILL FOLLOW.   

THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW.

IT’S JUST THE SINGING!

Monday, January 9, 2012

THE BRASS TRILOGY


1. There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind.

2. Sound motivates function.

3. It’s just the singing!


The brass player’s conscious awareness must focus only on the sound they want to create with their instrument. Their conscious commitment to the sound will motivate the subconscious mind to do whatever is necessary mechanically to realize it with an instrument. The most vivid awareness is achieved by mentally singing the music as it’s being played.

Roccoism

Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to your conscious will if you don't interfere with paralyzing self analysis.


Adolph Herseth

It's amazing what the lips can accomplish if you get your mind out of the way.

Arnold Jacobs

I believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of your physical maneuvers but highly conscious of your musical goals.

H. A. Vandercook Keep it simple. If you can sing it, you can play it.

Arnold Jacobs I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.

Adolph Herseth When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally)then buzz (mouthpiece). Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.

Meredith Willson “The Think System” from “The Music Man”

Marion, the librarian, speaking to Harold Hill, the bandmaster.

Is it true that you have developed a revolutionary new method of teaching music called “The Think System”?

Harold Hill Yes, it’s really quite simple. Nobody has to teach you how to whistle. You only have to think the tune to have it come out perfectly clear.

Roger Rocco

We must have a childlike simplistic approach to executing the incredibly complex mechanical skills that are required to play an instrument or do anything else.

SING BUZZ PLAY


THE FINALE ULTIMO

For those who require a book, you are welcome to print these posts and bind the pages. Please accept this information as a gift from Arnold Jacobs who blessed me with a career and life in music. Roger

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

THE IMPERFECT PURSUIT OF PERFECTION, THE PARALYZING IMPACT OF SELF ANALYSIS

Roccoisms

Your determined pursuit of perfection will lead to greater imperfection if you cannot accept the inevitable reality that an element of failure is a necessary component of creating success.

You must celebrate your moments of success and accept your moments of failure so that you are joyful when you play rather than in despair.

Poor sound can be transformed into quality sound. Silence cannot be transformed into quality sound.

Focal dystonia is a symptom rather than a disease. Any physician understands that treating the symptoms of disease does not lead to a cure.

Your subconscious mind will respond faithfully and powerfully to your imaginative conscious will if you don’t interfere with intellectual self analysis.

Imagination is a much greater motivator of the power of the subconscious mind than intellect.

There is no reason for your success or failure other than your state of mind.

Robert Carter (The Secret of the Ages, 2007 Wilder Publications)

The conscious mind is the gateway that allows access to the power of the subconscious.

Arnold Jacobs

If you cannot accept crudity, you cannot create quality.

Adolph Herseth

If I didn’t miss any notes, I wouldn’t have any friends.

Paralysis by Analysis

Maurice Andre

I expect the notes to be there.


THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE

A brass player, or any musician, has no opportunity to test or modify their musical product before they present it to an audience. However, computer programmers or electrical engineers can fully evaluate and modify their work until they have complete confidence of its value. They rarely face consequences of failure unless their evaluations and modifications are incorrect.

Because of the precarious acoustical characteristics of brass instruments, a 100% expectation of success is not possible, even for the greatest players. A certain amount of failure is inevitable. Excessive failure over time is debilitating. The negative psychological impact of too much failure is not as great for an elementary musician as it is for a professional whose livelihood and self esteem depend on a high level of success. The negative consequences of failure are greater for the musician who is expected to produce.

The musicians who come to me most often for help are experienced professionals whose careers are in jeopardy. In time, their fear and anxiety becomes powerfully conditioned to and reinforce by the instrument in their hands. This powerful association, conditioned reflex, was first demonstrated by the Russian behavioral psychologist Ivan Pavlov in his well known experiments with a salivating dog. The instrument becomes an enemy rather than a friend.

THE PERFECTIONIST PERSONALITY


Roccoism

The perfectionist musician cannot not tolerate imperfection with a instrument in their hands. As a result, much of the time they are dissatisfied with their performance because perfection is not a realistic goal. As their dissatisfaction grows over time, the instrument becomes a powerful reinforcing influence motivating mechanical paralysis.

Parents celebrate their children’s first intelligible words or first steps. The positive reinforcement encourages their continued development. If the child was scolded for their imperfections, paralysis would set in and all development would cease.

A personal friend, with a doctorate in psychology and works as a therapist, dreamed of becoming a professional pianist when she was a child. Her father, who was a fine pianist himself, was her teacher. When there were visitors to their home, she was always expected to perform for the guests. However, she was only allowed to play until she made a mistake. When she inevitably made an error, the impromptu recital was terminated and she was asked to leave.

Since she was not allowed to fail, the consequences of her inevitable failure eventually caused paralysis to the point where she could no longer even sit at the piano. The piano became a powerful factor reinforcing her emotional pain, anxiety, and personal disappointment.

There is a response in the subconscious mind that reacts to protect us from emotional or physical harm. When we touch a hot stove, are response is not a conscious intellectual event. We don’t think to ourselves, “This is uncomfortable. I don’t like it. What should I do about it?” Our subconscious mind reacts powerfully and instantly to remove our hand from the uncomfortable situation.

THE DOUBLE BARRELED SHOTGUN

The brass player has a double barreled shotgun pointed at them because they experience both emotional pain and physical discomfort when they fail to execute the notes they want to produce. If a pianist or violinist plays the wrong note, they may experience personal disappointment but they do not experience physical pain. The rejection of the air column within a brass instrument is quite uncomfortable. A friend once described it, “like trying to push a piano up the stairs.”

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY - THE BARRIER OF FEAR


Roccoism

Most people never realize their dreams in life because they are paralyzed by their fear of failure.

Adolph Herseth

A trumpeters life is risky business. No greatness can be achieved if the player is paralyzed by fear.

When a musician fails in performance, deep emotional pain and fear of continuing failure come instantly. Their expectation of success weakens and their expectation of failure grows in a accelerating downward spiral.

Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics, 1960 Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

The mechanisms of success and failure are the same.

Roccoisms

We always realize our positive or negative expectations because our subconscious mind will faithfully react to satisfy our conscious will. The exception is if our will directs intentional or perceived self inflicted harm.

The subconscious mind may respond independently if there is no conscious will.

Our expectations are usually the result of creating a history over time. If our legs function properly to get us out of bed everyday, we will expect them to function the same tomorrow.

Since the subconscious mind does not distinguish between fantasy and reality, it is possible to create an expectation motivated by imagination. I frequently use this technique in my private teaching. I will ask students to imagine that they are me or someone else whose playing they admire.

First Case Study

I worked with a fine oboist, who was completing her DMA at a major university. When she brought out the case with 20-25 reeds, I asked her to choose the best and worst ones. There was no hesitation picking the worst one, but she struggled to choose the best reed.

Finally, when the two reeds were removed from the case, I asked her to use the worst one. The anguish of her facial expression indicated that she did not expect to succeed. I asked who her favorite oboist is. When she replied, I said, “Do you think he could play the worst reed successfully?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Yes!” I instructed her to pretend it was him playing La Gazza Ladra. She immediately performed the solo beautifully Her reed and oboe became inconsequential and the music was the only thing that mattered. Her commitment to the music allowed her to transcend her expectation of failure which was powerfully reinforced by the reed.

SECOND CASE STUDY

I received a call from a very fine professional flutist who I knew as an excellent high school musician. Sadly, she told me that for the previous fifteen years, her right hand has been somewhat paralyzed and she experienced pain while fingering. She also mentioned that she had been to flute teachers and medical professionals worldwide but no one has been able to help her.

I first asked if her hand functioned normally when she was not playing the flute. She said yes and added that the doctors could not find anything physically wrong. I immediately knew the physical malfunction was the result of her state of mind. Since her mind was causing the problem, I understood that her recovery must be to alter her state of mind. She had lost her mental commitment to the music and was now focusing on her right hand. She was desperately trying to eliminate the pain and to make her fingers function.

H. A. Vandercook


Keep it simple.

If you can sing it, you can play it.

Arnold Jacobs

I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.

Roccoisms

The highest level of awareness of sound is achieved when we mentally sing the notes as we play them.

It’s just the singing and buzzing no matter where your mouthpiece is located.

SING, BUZZ, PLAY

THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY


The most effective technique to bring her awareness back to the music was to have her vocally sing as she fingered and to mentally sing as she played.

Since I understood that the flute was reinforcing her paralysis and pain, the first step was to sing vocally without fingering. After several repetitions of vocal singing, I ask if she thought she could sing and finger the instrument while it rested on her lap. She replied affirmatively and was able to finger freely and without pain.

I asked her to alternate repetitions of vocally singing and fingering with singing mentally while fingering. She gradually brought the flute to playing position. I told her to mentally sing and play but only when she expected to succeed. She was able to play a short passage normally and without pain the first time she tried. It was her first moment of success in many years.

I wanted to know what had happened to cause her paralysis and pain fifteen years prior. She replied, “I started giving eighty flute lessons a week to make a living.”

She was listening to so much low level performance that the elementary tone production dominated her awareness. Her subconscious faithfully responded to realize the elementary level playing that she was allowing into her conscious awareness. As the physical symptoms of her failure became more severe, she became anxious and very unhappy. Her physical and emotional pain became associated with flute and her subconscious mind perceived it as a harmful object, causing paralysis as it erroneously tried to rescue her from harm.

Jay Friedman

After a day of teaching, I sound more and more like my students.

Because Adolph Herseth understood the negative impact of listening to low level trumpet playing, he only accepted very advanced students. When a student leaves my studio, I always play my horn to renew my awareness of sound. Jake taught thirty hours of lessons per week but never allowed the mostly dysfunctional playing he heard to negatively impact his personal playing. He always separated his teaching from his personal performance.

Adolph Herseth

There’s nothing wrong with your chops. Your mind is messing them up.

Roccoism

The music tells us everything we need to know.

Arnold Jacobs

We must give dominance to the music not the instrument or ourselves.

I believe that we should be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers and highly conscious of our musical goals.

Adolph Herseth

Sound is the criterion for how we do this and that.

When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing then buzz. Transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument.

AIR AND EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS IS POISON NOT MEDICINE!!!

In over forty years of studio and classroom teaching, not one student has ever asked me anything about air or embouchure! Any music teacher is well aware of the question they hear most often.

"HOW DOES THIS GO?"

The students are constantly telling us what they need and most teachers ignore it. Instead, many teachers force feed students useless information that is very destructive to those who take it seriously. My students frequently complain about conductors and clinicians who instruct them to give dominance to paralyzing self analysis. Here are the worst examples:

FILL THE INSTRUMENT WITH AIR!

The instrument is already full of air. Since it has no sound, they should say fill the instrument with sound.

Roccoism

Sound motivates function.

IT REQUIRES MORE AIR TO PLAY SOFT THAN LOUD.

On a single breath, I can sustain a soft note with a tuba for 30 seconds but I can only play a very loud note for 1-3 seconds.

BREATHE FROM THE DIAPHRAGM (STOMACH).

Attempting to breath only from the stomach will reduce the vital capacity by 50%! No one tells an athlete to breathe only from the diaphragm otherwise they would collapse from exhaustion.


Roccoism

It is not necessary to teach you how to breathe because you have been doing it very well for your entire life.

The list of erroneous comments is endless but the most destructive are about embouchure analysis and breath control.

DROP YOUR JAW.

TIGHTEN OR LOOSEN YOUR LIPS.

FAST OR SLOW AIR

DIRECT THE AIR UP OR DOWN INSIDE THE MOUTHPIECE.

USE MORE OR LESS MOUTHPIECE PRESSURE.

SHIFT THE MOUTHPIECE OR KEEP THE MOUTHPIECE STABLE AS YOU ASCEND OR DESCEND IN PITCH.

RELAX!

Roccoisms

It is not necessary to study air or vocal chords in order to talk. It’s the sound of the words we want to say that motivates the mechanical function of speech. Nothing is different when we have an instrument in our hands. Our awareness of the music will motivate the mechanics required to play the instrument.

While playing, a wind instrumentalist has only a very vague awareness of air pressure or air flow. Since we cannot detect air, we should focus on what is detectable, SOUND!

THE ACCEPTANCE OF IMPERFECTION

Roccoisms

Your acceptance of failure will allow you to minimize the consequences. Your inability to accept failure will maximize the consequences.

You don’t need to enjoy or celebrate your moments of failure, but you must accept the fact that they are going to occur as you strive for success.

Your response to failure must be to act in a manner that leads to success not more failure.

Shinichi Suzuki

We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned to talk.
“THE THINK SYSTEM” from The Music Man by Meredith Willson

Marion, the Librarian

Harold, is it true that you have invented a revolutionary new system of teaching music called THE THINK SYSTEM?

Harold, the Bandmaster

Yes, it’s really quite simple. Nobody has to teach you how to whistle. You only have to think the tune to have it come out perfectly clear.


Roccoism

Your ability to speak is not motivated by intellectual analysis of breath and vocal chords. The mechanics of speech are motivated by the sound of words. In the same manner, your ability to play an instrument is motivated by "The Sound of Music".

Arnold Jacobs

The key to playing a brass instrument is found in speech.